You’re ready to start your research on buying windows to replace the old, worn-out, inefficient windows in your home. The question is: “Where do I start.”
Probably the best place to start is to understand the different materials that your new replacement windows could be made from, and the pros and cons of each.
Replacement Window Frame and Sash Materials
There are five main materials that are used in the construction of replacement windows: wood, wood clad, vinyl (pvc), metal (typically aluminum) and fiberglass/composite materials. Let’s walk through the benefits and challenges of each type.
Wood windows were the most popular frame types for many years. Consistent, equal site lines between sashes and beautiful grain patterns offered unmatched beauty and elegance. In addition, wood windows are superior, from a thermal efficiency standpoint, to their metal/aluminum counterparts.
On the other side of the equation, wood windows require on-going maintenance. Also, it isn’t a question of if wood will rot, but when. Couple this with one of the highest costs of any window frame type, wood window purchases have tailed off over the last 10 years.
Wood Clad Windows
From a sort of “have your cake and eat it too” standpoint, a wood clad framed replacement window takes a wood frame and surrounds it with another material (typically vinyl or aluminum) that is “bonded” to the wood on the exterior of the window. This reduces the amount of maintenance necessary and accounts for wood clad windows being more popular than their all-wood counterpart.
Unfortunately, while you may never have to paint the exterior of a wood clad window, depending on how the cladding is attached to the wood, you may have to replace the window itself in as little as 10 years, as the cladding can hold moisture in and accelerate wood rot.
In some cases, the cladding on the sash is actually sealed to the glass unit itself, usually with glazing tape or a butyl sealant. You can tell the quality of those seals by noting whether the window dealer or manufacturer recommends that you apply a bead of silicone to where the cladding and glass come together to prevent leaks. This sash design also affects replacing the glass unit in the event of catastrophic seal failure.
Offering among the highest energy efficiency levels and lowest cost of all frame types, it’s no surprise that vinyl windows are, far and away, the most commonly sold window type, garnering well over 50% of the overall window sales market.
Vinyl windows are known for their minimal maintenance requirements, but also, depending on the product, minimal customization/option choices.
Moreover, especially in window replacement applications, vinyl windows provide the least aesthetically pleasing option due to bulkier frames required to provide higher levels of frame insulation.
Structural integrity and durability are hallmarks of aluminum windows, along with increased glass area and a lower relative cost.
However, aluminum’s high conductivity rates probably account for their less than 3% share of window market product purchases.
These window types are the relative newbies on the market and offer superior energy performance, as well as strength and longevity.
Often perceived as “bulky,” these window types require an acceptance of a loss of glass viewing area, even more so than their vinyl window counterparts
Because of these aesthetic concerns as well being the most expensive of all window types, new windows with these frame types have a lower market share that even metal/aluminum products.
Sunrise Offers Vinyl Windows
At Sunrise, for the 25 years that we’ve been in business, we’ve just offered one type of window…. UI-pvc vinyl.
Let’s walk through our thought process, concerning the pros and cons listed above…
- Energy Efficiency—While vinyl window frames and sashes, in and of themselves, offer the highest levels of energy efficiency, Sunrise takes it several steps further, by using the same insulating material in our frames that you’ll find in the most expensive coolers.
- Cost—Even with the category itself, there is a huge range when it comes to actual cost. There are numerous things that go into the cost of a replacement window.
- Personalization—Especially on the low end, your choices can be very limited. In this era of personalization, however, we go the extra mile to insure that you have many choices.
- Aesthetics—Without a doubt, a replacement window requires the acceptance of some glass area loss, due to its very nature. The Sunrise product is engineered to offer up to 27% more glass viewing area than competitive replacement windows. A unique new installation technique, full frame replacement, gives you even more glass area.
Once you gotten this far, it’s time to take the next step in your replacement window research process, and that’s where we’ll go during our next visit.